By Mary Ann Ordinario
The following is the text of the storybook War Makes Me Sad: The Thoughts of a Child about the War in Mindanao published in 2000 by ABC Educational Development Center. It was declared Best Short Story for Children at the 2003 Catholic Mass Media Awards.
When we hear strong explosions, I see the worried face of my mother with tears in her eyes. Father hurriedly prepares to bring the chicken and goats from our backyard.
We run and I don’t know where we are going. We ride in a cart pulled by a carabao. Sometimes in a tricycle, jeep, or Ford Fiera. Or just hop in any vehicle that passes by so we can be far away from the explosions.
I hear people say, “There is war.”
What is this war? Whatever it is, it makes me sad.
I know it will take a long time before I can play again. We will leave our small hut, my kite, ball, and books. I wonder will I still see my doll when I come back.
I just watch and stare blankly. There are soldiers and rebels. Like a movie or just like in the television. They have guns and move in tanks. For sure after a while there will be bombings and we have to run again.
Sometimes I cry. I remember my friend Kahlil, who lost his arms. They say, “The war took it.” Will he still go to school? How can he use his pencil and crayons again?
Because of war we hide for a long time and try to go to the next town. My body aches. We try to find a place or a building for us to stay. And usually these are schools. There are so many people. We sleep together inside the classrooms. We stay together even if we don’t know one another. There are many mosquitoes. We don’t have a blanket, a mosquito net, or even a mat. I lie down in concrete floors very cold against my back. Father and Toto sleep outside, with coconuts leaves spread out as their mat.
Oftentimes when asleep, I wake up frightened because of the strong explosions. Sometimes, Mother shakes me and I hear her say, “Wake up my child, you are having a nightmare.” I tell her I dreamed of a huge gun. It was chasing me. I had to run fast so I can hide.
We can’t change our clothes and we don’t have any belongings. We can’t even take a bath because there is no water. Maybe that is why so many of us get sick. I even saw a mother gave birth but her baby did not move. They said that there was no doctor to take care of her.
Because of war my stomach aches. But we don’t have food. Not even a piece of bread. Sometimes I don’t eat breakfast or lunch. Though there are people who drop by and bring some food like noodles, dried fish, sardines, or rice. I hear them call these donations. They are not even enough for everyone.
I see people get wounded or killed. People panic and scream! Some stumble, some cry, and some don’t move at all. Mother holds my hand and pulls me. I get bumped and stepped on by anybody. I have to run and take a step, even if I am barefooted.
What scares me even more is the thought that Father, Mother, Toto, or Nene might be gone one day. What if they get sick? That is why I hold tightly onto my mother’s skirt.
Will there be no silence? When will the bombings stop? When will the war end? I have too many questions but Father could not give me the answers.
I want to go home. I want to rest, play, eat well, go back to school, laugh, and be happy again. So I pray that God, the most powerful, who loves children like me will take pity on us.